Mary Hogan principal to take new job in Bristol

MIDDLEBURY — It was 18 years ago that Tom Buzzell took the job of library media specialist at Mary Hogan Elementary School. His hard work led to his promotion to associate principal in 2005, then to co-principal before becoming the school’s top administrator in 2013.
Buzzell’s career is about to come full circle, though he’ll be closing the loop in a neighboring school district. He will be stepping down as Mary Hogan principal later this month to accept a job as library media specialist at Bristol Elementary School.
Current Mary Hogan Elementary School Assistant Principal Steve Lindemann will serve as interim leader next year while a search unfolds for a new top administrator.
Buzzell, 54, explained he’s spent the past two years looking for a new professional adventure to cap his career as an educator within the next eight to 10 years. As it turns out, the “new” adventure will involve a return to his educational roots.
“When the Bristol Elementary School job opened up … I was keenly interested,” he said. “I started to explore the position and the more I learned about the school, the more I thought it would be a good fit for me.”
It also helped that he was already acquainted with some of the Bristol Elementary staff, as well as with Mount Abraham Union School District Superintendent Patrick Reen. Reen is former principal of Middlebury Union Middle School.
“It’s a really strong school community right now, and I’m looking to join that instructional team and add value within the library media program there,” Buzzell said.
Two decades ago, Buzzell was a high school library media specialist and biology teacher in Frederick, Md. He and his wife, Stephanie, had came to a point in 2000 where they wanted a more safe and rural environment in which to raise their four children.
“We were looking for the class size and neighborhood experiences we thought would be really helpful,” Buzzell said. “ We found that in Vermont.”
He’s enjoyed his long, fruitful run at Mary Hogan, during which he believes he’s met most of the goals he set for his principalship. He cited as examples “some significant changes in our English language/arts instructional programming,” full implementation of the “Bridges Mathematics” curriculum, and development of a strong Science, Math, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program.
He’s also been pleased to see students’ fascination with the “Trout in the Classroom” program. It allows the students to follow the development of brook trout from eggs to fry. They get to monitor water quality within the tank, engage in stream habitat study and understand ecosystems. And they love releasing the fish into the Middlebury River.
“We really are addressing the education of the whole child,” he said of the program.
Buzzell believes it’s now time for a new administrator to place his or her imprint on Mary Hogan Elementary.
“I think leadership positions run a cycle,” he said. “When you come into a leadership position, you bring a set of ideas and a vision, and you try to realize that vision through the programming you ask the faculty and staff to implement with you. I’m at a point where I’m looking for a new programmatic challenge, and the role of library media specialist is my first love in education. You get to be a champion of reading, a champion of literature, making sure kids are skilled users of information in all its forms.”
The importance of reading has always been something Buzzell has reinforced to children. He’s encouraged kids to make literature part of their everyday lives in order to make them well-rounded citizens. And a lot of good citizens have emerged from Mary Hogan Elementary, as evidenced by the way they treat their school.
“We have students who are outraged if there’s the slightest bit of graffiti on our playground,” he said with a smile. “You feel this strong sense of community pride in the school. The students have a tremendous sense of ownership in their elementary school, that this is ‘their school’ and a place where they feel safe.”
Buzzell will cherish many fond memories of his time at Mary Hogan.
He recalled standing in line at a local restaurant soon after he’d been hired as the school’s library media specialist in 2000. One of his third-grade students, named Armando, was in the same line with his parents and recognized Buzzell and gave him a shout-out. Armando’s parents came up to Buzzell, who introduced himself as one of the boy’s teachers. It was at this point that the parents shared that Armando had professed a desire to become a school librarian.
So Buzzell had been on the job for only three weeks and had already made a difference in a student’s life.
“It’s a way of understanding our role as exemplars and mentors for our students,” Buzzell said of the Armando anecdote. “(Children) are often looking for who they might emulate. So we need to do everything we can to be good role models.”
He’ll miss the committed staff, school board members, students and parents who he said made Mary Hogan Elementary a great place years before his arrival.
“As I depart this position, I want the Mary Hogan School community to know I’ve appreciated their support and confidence in our instructional program and the leadership here at the school,” Buzzell said.
Lorraine Morse was a longtime member of the Mary Hogan Elementary Board prior to its elimination in favor of a single panel that now oversees all Addison Central School District (ACSD) schools. She said Buzzell is leaving big shoes to fill.
“I think very highly of him; he’s a great guy,” Morse said. “He’s always put the kids first. He’s been a solid leader.”
Peter Burrows, ACSD superintendent, also praised Buzzell.
“I think everyone who knows Tom knows he’s a bedrock and someone who really goes above and beyond for kids,” Burrows said. “You can go Mary Hogan and walk around and you’ll often find him working through and helping a student find more success at school. He’s done a lot of great work.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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